The mass murder monologues

•15/06/2011 • Leave a Comment

Steamrolling right ahead with my man-crush of the month, here’s a few of my favourite moments in writing from the Punisher MAX series by Garth Ennis. I can only describe it as hardcore poetic prose.

* * * * *

Father David: Tyger, tyger, burning bright… in the forests of the night…

(Frank Castle): And I imagined the Tyger.

Like the caged tigers at the Bronx zoo, but something more, something that could not be held.

That would be bigger, badder, deadlier than anyone or anything that walked the planet. That would look you in the eyes and know your terror. That would not know mercy, or remorse, nor even the concept of stopping: not having been constructed with those qualities in mind.

A force made flesh.

Father David: What about the line, actually my favourite line, “did He who made the lamb make thee?”… Frank?

10-year-old Frank Castle: Does it mean… God didn’t make the Tyger?

Father David: Heh! Frank, God made everything. If He didn’t make the Tyger, who did?

Frank: I dunno. Someone who don’t make things like lambs…

That day I realised there had always been Tygers.

Living in the darkness of our dreams. No less alive for being gone from the physical world. Emerging as it suited them, to stalk, to terrify, to overwhelm completely: to keep the planet in their thrall.

Bigger…

Badder…

Deadlier…

Somehow I knew we needed them.

I know what the world needs now. Same thing it’s needed all along.

I walk off the Brooklyn rooftop and into the future: a future full of screams and bullets, and bad men dying in the ancient dark.

And I show the world a face not made by God.

The Tyger #1

 * * * * *

I will not die in Vietnam.

My name is Stevie Goodwin and I am so short I can taste it.

I am down to thirty-nine days and a wake up, and on that magic day, I will step aboard that big freedom bird and leave this place behind forever.

On the great silver craft that carries me home I will sleep the sleep of the just, and beautiful roundeye angels in stewardesses’ outfits will smile with joy and bring me cold, cold beer.

I will not die here. I will escape these fields of slaughter.

I will not re-up and serve a second tour, will not become a combat-junkie like so many of the others – forever jonesing for their next sweet firefight, their lethal speedball of adrenalin and tracer.

I will not fall in love with war like Captain Castle.

Frank Castle is the finest officer the Marines of Firebase Valley Forge have ever known. He is the reason I am sure I will survive this.

His dedication to his men is total. Not from love – that word and he do not belong together – but from the same determination to do his job correctly that informs his every action. Since he arrived six months ago, not one patrol he has led has suffered K.I.A.

His first tour, so the story goes, began with Tet in sixty-eight. The brass in Da Nang detected some dark promise in the young platoon commander, and Special Forces had themselves a new recruit.

Within that strange Praetorian Guard his star shone brightly. His second tour is mostly mystery, but I’ve heard talk of wetwork in Cambodia, black ops, the company, an N.V.A. General sniped just outside Hanoi… 

And horror stories too outlandish to be true.

But now the war in Vietnam is winding down, and no one knows quite what to do with the predators it has bred. His third tour saw him sent to Valley Forge – because they had to send him somewhere, after all.

A specialised assassin in command of infantry. The writing is upon the wall: America will soon be gone from here.

Alas for Captain Castle, he is running out of war.

I will have sons.

When the big freedom bird takes me home I will make love to many beautiful women, and when I meet the most beautiful of all I will marry her that very day.

She will give me sons and they will grow up tall and strong as giants, and I will watch them grow and sing with pride.

I will take them up into the woods and mountains and show them the greatest country in the world: the Promised Land that is their birthright. The good America, the real America.  

And not this tragic misstep into darkness.

In years to come the boys will learn their father went to war, and gaze on him anew, eyes bright with fascination. They will ask the old man what he did, and who he fought, and where he went, and what he saw there…

And I will never, ever tell them.

– Stevie Goodwin, the Punisher Born #1

 * * * * *

There is a Great Beast loose in the world of men.

It awoke in dark times to fight a terrible enemy. It stormed through Europe, across the Pacific, and crushed the evil it found there underfoot. But when it was victorious, when the crooked cross and the rising sun were done with, the Great Beast’s keepers found that it would not go back to sleep.

The Beast has many heads, and on its heads are written names: Lockheed. Bell. Monsanto. Dow. Grumman. Colt. And many more.

And they are very, very hungry.

So the Great Beast must be fed: and every generation our country goes to war to do just that.

A war for war’s sake, usually. And one that could have been avoided. But there must be blood, in extraordinary quantities, and whether it is foreign or American is of no consequence at all.

And so, today, at Firebase Valley Forge, our turn has finally arrived.

– Stevie Goodwin, the Punisher Born #4

 * * * * *

They hated that old man so much they shot him through my family.

The world went crazy on a summer’s day in Central Park, in the time before Uzis and Berettas, before nine millimetre popguns ruled the streets.

It was a Thompson, like the ones our fathers carried, and I recognised its rattle even as its big, man-stopping forty-fives punched blood and breath from my lungs.

I hit the ground beside my daughter, she’d been gutshot, badly, and when she saw the things that boiled and wriggled from her belly the expression on her face was not a little girl’s.

My wife bled out later on the operating table, her heart a gaping hole her life drained through. Whenever I get careless, that yearning in her eyes creeps up and brings me to my knees.

Right then the old man’s soldiers started shooting back. My son dropped wordlessly, without a mark on him. I took a breath that cut like glass, spat blood, rose to my knees, picked up the boy and searched in vain for entry wounds.

The bullet had entered through his open mouth.

That was our picnic in the park.

And now… every night… I go out and make the world sane.

– Frank Castle, the Punisher MAX #1 – In the Beginning

* * * * *

Ann Larsen, I know you and your husband have been shooting pornographic films with your children. I want to make this as easy on them as I can.

Invite me in.

Someone should suffer, not just die.

That was the thought I had when I went in there.

It was a simple thing to watch him cough his teeth out, listen as he choked on the shreds of his tongue. His eyes said everything: the agony, the disbelief at what had happened to a normal evening, the realisation of Hell came next.

Part of me could have stood there for an hour.

Not the part that raised the pistol, took up second pressure.   

I made the call and waited, didn’t want the kids wandering down to look for mom and dad.

Later, slipping out the back door as the cops kicked in the front, I thought about the looks on their faces.

The little girl couldn’t have been more than four. She might stand a chance, depending on how much of it stayed with her. Not being an expert, I couldn’t say for sure.

The boys looked like the damage was done. I had a sinking feeling I’d be seeing them again in twenty years.

There are times I’d like to get my hands on God…

– Frank Castle, the Punisher Max #44 – Widowmaker

Advertisements

GALLIPOLI!

•13/06/2011 • Leave a Comment

I recently finished writing my mid-year exams. I don’t think I would have made it through the studying without blasting this song during my numerous cigarette breaks – must have listened to it about a 100+ times in the last 3 weeks (my neighbours can consider it payback for all their loud monkey sex, the bastards).

I’m sure I scored about 10-20% more in my exams purely because of this song’s eight-hundred megatons of sheer amazeballs. Thank you Sabaton.

And if you’re at all interested in history: the Gallipoli Campaign.

Childhood warsong!

•12/06/2011 • Leave a Comment

Arguably the greatest kids’ cartoon of all time. And by ‘arguably’ I mean that if you disagree, I’ll beat you senseless with a lump of star-metal before you can say “pomegranate”.

Let’s at least agree that the opening sequence is a fistfull of fuck-yeah!

Is it just me, or does that back-flip at 0:45 seem to defy every law of physics mankind ever held dear?

A face not made by God

•12/06/2011 • 2 Comments

The Punisher has always been my favourite comic book character. Not hero – character. In the all too real world of the Punisher, there are no heroes.

He’s been around since the 70s, but it wasn’t until Frank Castle met Garth Ennis that the Punisher was truly born, and it wasn’t until Marvel’s MAX series that the Punisher became a legend.

You should know this by now: Frank Castle lost his wife, daughter and son in the crossfire of a mafia gun battle in Central Park, NYC. He swore revenge, donned an awesome T-shirt, and has been killing bad guys ever since (that’s 30 years of relentless badassery). 

Under the masterful hand of Ennis, the MAX continuity adds to the Punisher’s origins, taking us back to his tours of duty in Vietnam. Frank Castle is a young man who has fallen in love with war. A darkness reaches out to him and promises that he can wage an eternal war… for a price. This adds a touch of mystery to the Punisher myth, and makes him seem more a force of nature than a man. “A face not made by God” indeed.

The MAX comics also remove a majority of Marvel universe conventions: no superheroes, no advanced technologies, no coming back from the dead, etc. Frank uses ‘real-world’ methods to fight ‘real-world’ enemies like the mafia, human traffickers, the Irish mob, the widowed wives of his victims, and even corrupt American army generals (the devious workings of the US military-industrial complex are a common theme throughout the MAX series). Only the nigh-unkillable villain Barracuda pushes the bounds of believability, but by the time he shows up, it’s far too late to dismiss these comics as “kid’s stuff”.

Although I’m not usually one to comment of artwork, I can safely say that the MAX visuals have never failed to blow my mind. I don’t often agree with the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but…

But more than anything, it’s the calibre of Ennis’s writing that got me hooked. Simple. Elegant. Brutal. The Punisher’s monologues are almost Shakespearean in quality; the dialogue flows; the storylines never lack for shock or catharsis; and, amidst all the slaughter, there is always an element, however faint, of real human emotion. Occasionally, you might even find yourself laughing.

Unfortunately, Garth Ennis’s run on the Punisher MAX series only lasted 60 issues, but with just a drop of emotion, a pint or two of dark humour, a few gallons of gritty realism, and fuck-knows how many kilolitres of blood, Ennis put those 60 issues in a war zone of their own.

Now if only someone would make a decent Punisher movie…

Close... BUT NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

 

Forgotten fragments

•11/06/2011 • Leave a Comment

Sometimes I wake up from a dream with an idea for a story burning a hole in my brain. This is always exciting. The challenge is getting out of bed and writing it all down before becoming entirely conscious. This never works. By the time I’m a few lines in, I’m wide awake and lost.

Dreams can be vivid and emotional, and it is often impossible for our conscious minds to translate the ramblings of our subconscious into words, never mind a coherent story.

This has resulted in a lot of scribbled-on scraps of paper over the years – forgotten fragments of stories never told. Many of these scraps would make fine kindling, but occasionally I (re)discover an idea that gets me foaming at the creative maw. Some fragments are neither, and just sort of exist – never to be continued, never to be discarded. All of them stay with me in some form or another – waiting for the day doctors develop a cure for writer’s block.

Here’s one I found today under the heading “Space Dementia”. Cliche sci-fi. I think there was supposed to be some kind of Twilight Zone twist at the climax. I can’t remember.

* * * * *

Darkness. Warm and perfect. Time is forgotten. There is only peace.

“Wake up… you’ve been dreaming.”

The voice is familiar and pleasant, yet it is out of place in the darkness. A woman’s voice. She speaks again, “Wake up, Danner. You’ve been dreaming for too long.”

He places the voice and smiles. “Let me dream a little longer, Ally,” he murmurs, reaching unconsciously for her hand. “Just a few more minutes.”

“No, Danner! It’s been too long!”

There is an edge to her voice now; unrecognisable and harsh. Robotic. He stirs, suddenly uncomfortable.

“Ally? What’s wrong?”

The darkness is no longer absolute. There is a pinpoint of light in the distance, a single star floating in a night sky.

The voice changes. “You can’t hide here forever, Doc.” It now belongs to a man and sounds both desperate and angry.

“Tarver? What are you doing here? I thought… I thought…”

The faraway star has grown into a nearby sun. It is a sharp agony in his mind; white hot and relentless. 

“Dammit, Danner! Wake up!” The robotic quality is back, stronger than before. “Wake up!”

The darkness flees as the light explodes and suddenly he is awake and aware and afraid. Peace is forgotten. Time is restored.

The hibernation chamber emptied quickly, liquid di-oxide gurgling down the drain in a frantic rush. Cold air was injected into the chamber, feeling unnatural against Danner’s skin and making him shiver and ache. A multitude of plastic tubes and needles were withdrawn from his body with swift precision by spindly robotic arms. He felt one such tube slithering its way up his throat and when it was finally ripped from his mouth, he cried out. All he managed was a faint whimper.

His first coherent thought was, we made it, and excitement flared in his chest.

Overhead, the opaque glass of the hibernation chamber’s lid cracked open and fluorescent light flooded in. Danner blinked his eyes against the glare and with a great effort hauled himself to a sitting position. His excitement died.

The Mariner’s med-lab gleamed pristine and white around him. The surgical machines were silent, long jagged instruments hanging limply in the air, and the computer consoles were dark. The med-lab seemed dead, the severe light giving it the pale sheen of a corpse. Comprehension burgeoned into panic. The science facilities were located in the ship’s stern, close to the engines; Danner was about as far from the crew quarters as he could be without finding himself adrift in deep space. His heart beat a little faster, a different rhythm to the throbbing behind his eyes.

Hibernation chambers kept their occupants alive and healthy by pumping nutrients into their bodies and stimulating their muscles with small electric jolts. Nevertheless, as Danner struggled out of the glass cylinder, his limbs felt weak and unresponsive, as if they were not his own. His stomach roiled with a vile combination of hunger and nausea. Unsteadily, he rose, still dripping liquid di-oxide. The smooth steel of the floor was a great comfort beneath his bare feet, something solid to focus on while his mind reeled.

Bracing himself against various machines and operating surfaces, Danner moved awkwardly towards the computer consoles. Along the way, he doubled over to retch. Bile, thick and yellow, dribbled from his lips in long threads, spattering onto the spotless floor. Swallowing the urge to lie down and sleep, he straightened and continued. You’ve been dreaming for too long.

After what seemed like hours, he had finally crossed the lab and now stood shakily in front of the med facility’s main console. He caught a glimpse of his reflection in the blank computer screen, but for some reason found he was unable to meet his own eyes, strangely uneasy about what he might see. He flipped a switch and his reflection was shattered as the console lit up. A low hum filled the lab as machines powered up.

“Good evening, Doctor.” It was the voice of the Mariner’s central AI. It was a flat, uncaring monotone, but it was at least familiar and Danner felt something like relief wash over him.  

The unusual suspects – the characters of Planescape: Torment (part 2)

•21/05/2011 • Leave a Comment

Dhall

 

 “I am a scribe, a cataloger of all the shells that come to the Mortuary. Only I see the faces of those that lie upon our slabs… As long as I remain at my post, I will protect your right to search for your own truth.”

– Dhall, to the Nameless One

The ancient and sickly record-keeper of the Dustmen faction, Dhall is encountered shortly after the Nameless One awakes in the Mortuary. He is also the first to shed any light on the immortal’s condition, calling him “Restless One” for his corpse’s many visits to the Mortuary. Dhall spends his days coughing up blood and writing the names of the dead in a massive book while he awaits the True Death.

Deionarra

 “I shall wait for you in Death’s hall’s my love…”

– the ghost of Deionarra

A woman whose love for a previous incarnation of the Nameless One (the same incarnation that rescued Morte and imprisoned Vhailor) damned her spirit to wander the Negative Material Plane, though she evidently loves him still. Deionarra has the gift of prophecy, and her early encounter with the Nameless One is laden with obscure foreshadowing. She appears throughout the game, most notably in a sensory stone experience that reveals just how cruel and manipulative the Nameless One truly was in his Practical Incarnation.

Receiving her forgiveness at the game’s climax is pure and genuine catharsis.

The Lady of Pain

“The Lady of Pain, yes, yes… she is the force behind Sigil, you know. Very impressive figure, but little is known about her.”

– Able Ponder-thought, of the Guvners

A pervasive and evasive presence – her visage appears on loading screens and on the control panel, but to encounter her in person means breaking her laws and provoking her wrath: first time, she’ll Maze you; second time, she’ll flay your flesh with a mere glance. A floating giant, she wears a mask of rusty iron blades, so no one knows her identity, though it is known that she is able to keep gods from entering her city of Sigil (and she once killed the deity Aoskar), making her one of the most powerful beings in the multiverse; yet she punishes those who dare worship her. She never speaks, but everyone in Sigil knows her will.

Fell

 “Are yeh so pig-eager to dance in the Lady’s shadow yeh’ll bandy words with this one?! Let’s give this place the laugh before we get penned in the dead-book!”

Annah, speaking of Fell

Fell is a dabus, a race of floating “janitors” who speak in hovering symbols called rebuses and silently carry out the will of the Lady of Pain. Fell walks, because Fell no longer serves the Lady. He owns his own tattoo parlour in Sigil’s Hive district. His tattoos are magic, tailored to an individual’s inner nature. Fell can identify some of the Nameless One’s markings and can later scribe symbols of power from the Nameless One’s current and previous incarnations.

I read somewhere that Fell was supposed to be a joinable NPC, but that the idea was cut due to time/monetary/arbitrary restraints. It’s a pity – Fell would have fit in well with the others.

Pharod

“Pharod threw away his position, his goals, and took up a new title… And became a King of Rags! He would rule the trash, have his subjects search it all, and find that which he needed. He looks even now, even now…”

– Reekwind’s tale of Pharod

The first major quest the Nameless One must complete is finding Pharod in the Buried Village beneath Ragpicker’s Square. Pharod rules his “kingdom” of corpse collectors and thugs from a ruin he calls Illwind Court. He was once a man of influence and power in Sigil, but his many lies sealed his destiny – damnation to the Nine Hells. It was foretold to him that, “only in trash can you find that which will let you cheat your fate”. And so he became the Collector King, old and bent and bitter. When the Nameless One delivers the Bronze Sphere to Pharod in exchange for information, the collector proves less than helpful, though he does introduce his adopted daughter Annah to the party. He is soon after killed by shadows pursuing the Nameless One. The Bronze Sphere did not, in the end, help him cheat his fate.

Lothar

 “Do NOT offend this blood, boss… he’ll dead-book you faster than you can spit.”

– Morte told you so

The Master of the Bones is neither an ally nor an enemy – he abducts Morte, releases him in exchange for a greater skull, and provides the Nameless One with a very important clue: the name of Ravel Puzzlewell. Lothar collects skulls, animating them so they might share the secrets they possessed in life, whether they like it or not. He’s one of the few people in the universe who can truly kill the Nameless One, and much faster than you can spit. 

Minas Tirith: cheapest property and highest suicide rate in all of Fantasydom

•07/05/2011 • Leave a Comment

Welcome to Minas Tirith, the White City, capital of Gondor, ancestral seat of the Kings of Men. Built in seven tiers of white stone into the face of a mountain, the community is well-made and well-defended, with a view to die for.

The inevitable approach of suffering and doom, GOOD MORNING!

Throwing open their blinds in the morning for a breath of fresh air and the citizens of Minas Tirith are met with the uninviting flaming death peaks of Mordor staring at them just across the way like a Peeping Tom with a torture fetish.

Seriously judging by that angle, sunrise wouldn’t hit the city until just before 11 am, and by then Buril the shopkeep has already taken his own life and Andoren the streetsweeper has lost his mind and gone on a killing spree. Living in Minas Tirith must be like living within sight of an approaching tsunami that will eventually wipe away everything and everyone you love, but it’s being a dick and taking its sweet time about it.

For an added bonus, enjoy the shouts and screams that occasionally pierce your dreams from wartorn Osgiliath, because sleep just wasn’t hard enough to come by.

If only more people knew about the Shire.